Istobal UK business development manager Chris Scott explains how Istobal’s range of automated car washes can improve your bottom line and keep your customers happy
Who is Istobal?
We are a Spanish vehicle-washing manufacturer of some 70 years. We are a third-generation, family-owned firm, predominantly working in the petrol forecourt, car dealership and automotive markets. We have nine subsidiaries around the world with the UK being one, and we distribute to 75 countries as well. Istobal is one of the largest wash manufacturers in the world.
70 years – that’s quite some heritage isn’t it?
Yes, seeing how the head office and the factory in a small town just outside Valencia has grown over those 70 years is amazing. All the original machines are there in the factory, charting the company’s history, and they’re at the core of everything we do.
What products do you have?
We have a range of automatic car wash machines – rollovers, some people call them – jet wash machines, air and vac machines. The products we have are the machines you tend to see on petrol forecourts, but now also at car dealerships, auction houses and rental companies. We also supply the commercial sector with washes for trucks and internal washes for refrigerators. If you have a vehicle that needs washing, then we have a product for it.
Is the dealer market a growing one?
Yes, there are a number of dealer groups and franchised dealers that have automated machines. One premium manufacturer has our machines at the end of every one of its production lines in the world.
There’s very much a change in the UK as to the perception of car washes. There was a view that car washes damage vehicles – they don’t. The rapid rise in hand car washes over the past 15 years has seen the automated market stagnate a little. Now, though, with more technically advanced automated machines such as ours appearing on the market, there is a swing back to this type of machine.
Why has there been a shift back to automated machines?
There are various reasons for this – labour, costs, efficiencies and cashflow being just a handful of examples.
What are your products’ main benefits for a dealer?
Traditionally, a dealer will have contracts in place with external suppliers to send people in to wash the vehicles – that could be two to eight people. That’s generally a set rate per car or per person per day. That can be expensive. If you’re spending £200 a day on labour, that quickly multiplies over the course of a year – and it’s money you don’t get back. For franchised dealers especially it’s a cost they have to bear however, as they have to meet manufacturer expectations of cleaning customers’ cars when they come in for a service. Istobal can offer a machine with the benefits of washing, drying and additional services such as polishing and waxing.
In these times of coronavirus, a dealer can have fewer staff on site – and fewer staff touching a car means it’s safer.
There’s also a time element, too. One dealer told us it takes 10 minutes to do a basic jet wash on a car. Our machines wash, dry, wax and polish in seven minutes. We have one dealer who had three members of staff who washed cars then installed one of our machines. Now that dealer only needs one member of staff to drive the cars into the machine, and while a car is being washed they’re busy vacuuming the previous washed car.
And as we head towards a recession, every dealer will be looking at how they can maximise every penny.
Absolutely. Every dealer we have spoken with recently has contacted us because of cashflow. Dealers don’t know how the rest of the year is going to pan out, and cashflow could become tight. Our machines can improve cashflow.
There’s a customer service element to this, too, isn’t there?
There is, and with our products dealers are able to offer free car washes for life, for example. In reality, that will cost the dealer £1 for every car wash, but the benefit in terms of customer retention is endless. Of course, when that customer comes in for their free car wash, the dealer has the opportunity to speak to the customer, build that relationship and retain that customer for the future. The research we have done is that customers can travel up to 50 miles to buy a car, but they’re very unlikely to travel 50 miles to get their car washed. So it’s a great thing to provide but not everyone will take up the offer.